Pondering the Principles of Proverbs
Gold is pretty; but not on a pig. Flowers are pretty; but not on a pig. In such a setting, they lose their attractiveness.
In other words, "What's the point?" Dressing it up doesn't fix ugly.
And the issue is that true beauty requires much more than just good physical attributes. In fact, with the proper inner adornment, even a less than pretty woman can be quite attractive.
The lack of discretion can make anyone quite unattractive. The lack of discretion takes away from an otherwise attractive person.
Obviously, then, the question becomes, "What is discretion?"
As defined by Merriam-Webster, discretion means
: the right to choose what should be done in a particular situation
: the quality of being careful about what you do and say so that people will not be embarrassed or offended : the quality of being discreet
It is the second definition, however, that is the point of this proverb.
(There are many who would be upset with this verse and take it as being sexist. While I do not want to water down any aspect of the Bible, I will point out that this verse applies to men as well as women; just as in many cases where "man" is used to refer to humans. But, since it deals with "woman," I will make most of my points accordingly.)
The first, and most common modern application of the thought was about how a woman would sit--especially as skirts got shorter. It has also come to be about how much visible cleavage is appropriate.
Certainly, these are areas of concern, and women would do well to consider using discretion. For the believer, it does not work to put it off to "Well, he's just got a dirty mind." A word not commonly used now, but used in the KJV--"lasciviousness"-- means "to cause to lust." It is translated by most now as "sensuality."
Yes, it is true that most men's raison d'etre is between their legs, but for a woman to play to that--knowingly or not--is lascivious, and a lack of discretion.
And, of course, the same can be said for men who flaunt themselves in a sexual manner.
Discretion, however, has a much broader context than just the manner of dress or bodily position. It applies across all aspects of our global society.
For instance, it is impolite to show the bottom of your feet (shod or not) in most Middle Eastern countries. A person of discretion understands this and acts accordingly. The Japanese bow instead of offering a handshake. Buddhist Tibetans bow with hands folded in "prayer" style. In East India, eating, giving and receiving, and other interactions, are done with the right hand, because the left hand is considered unclean. A person of discretion understands these cultural differences and acts accordingly. A woman, no matter how beautiful, will not be considered so if she wantonly disregards societal mores.
A man of power will lose respect if he violates customary protocol.
The upshot is that a person who lacks the discretion to comport themselves properly in differing situations, is less than beautiful.
This is a simple fact of life, an observation of our human experience.
Yet, Solomon understood this more than 2500 years ago.
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